Authorities say a strategic approach is needed to prevent extremists from being recruited into terrorist organisations.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/09/13
Two people were killed in a February 1st suicide bombing at the US embassy in Ankara. [AFP]
Co-operation between regional governments has been important in reducing terrorism and extremist behaviour in Turkey and Southeast Europe, experts said.
Efforts include improved information and intelligence sharing, border co-operation, infrastructure protection, prosecution as well as working with countries to dismantle terrorist infrastructures.
For many governments, that means taking the anti-terrorism message directly to the people, particularly the youth vulnerable to recruitment, according to experts who attended an OSCE-sponsored seminar on countering violent extremism in Pristina last week.
Irfan Ciftci, a superintendent of the Counter-Terrorism Department in the Turkish National Police, said that Turkish officials organise social and cultural activities for young people, travelling around Turkey to famous cities, where the officials explain the real issues regarding terrorism.
"We are also organising family-based projects to reach the members of the terrorist organisations. We are using this project for those who are at risk, for those who can be potentially recruited. They are actively doing terrorist activities in the mountains and we are reaching their families to contact them. We first convince the family that they are doing the wrong thing and then they contact their son or daughter in the mountains and try to convince them to surrender to the Turkish authorities,” he added.
Ciftci said their prevention strategies have been successful especially in preventing recruitment by terrorist organisations.
"All the terrorist organisations target the schools or universities for their recruitment purposes, therefore, we are organising lots of seminars in universities explaining the purposes of the terrorist organisations and the kind of methods used by them,” Ciftci told SETimes.
Officials at the Council of the European Union have said co-operation has been vital to preventing terrorism attacks in southeast Europe and in gaining convictions, although there have been some incidents, such as the 2012 tourist bus bombing in Burges, Bulgaria, and the February suicide bombing at the US embassy in Ankara.
An OSCE-sponsored seminar in Pristina addressed the importance of prevention in the fight against terrorism. [Linda Karadaku/SETimes]
Experts said prevention efforts in Albania have been successful but must be improved to keep up with existing challenges.
"The fact that no terrorist act has taken place [in Albania] means the continuous preventive measures, and also those undertaken in specific situations, have had results," Xhavit Shala of the Albanian Centre for National Security Studies, an NGO in Tirana, told SETimes.
In Kosovo, authorities say a strategic approach is needed to prevent terrorism and acts of violent extremism.
"There are extremists in every society. There are in Kosovo as well. A strategic approach is needed to deal with the issue, involving not only the law enforcement agencies, but more stakeholders, all state instruments, civil society, communities. A joint approach is needed, attacking the factors (that lay the ground for it). Addressing those factors does not allow the society to be vulnerable towards extremism and radicalism," Major Fatos Makolli, director of the directorate against terrorism in the Kosovo Police, told SETimes.
Makolli said the state apparatus is not sufficient to raise awareness or deal by itself with the consequences of terrorism. Only by stakeholders jointly undermining the factors that contribute to the development of extremism will Kosovo reduce its vulnerability.
Belgrade professor Obrad Savic said that the Muslim community in Kosovo is the integral part of European Muslims, "except small, radical Islamistic groups mainly organised in small villages, over local mosques around Pristina, as well as Sarajevo and Skopje."
Such groups exist in many parts in Europe and the world, but what is important is the attitude by the populace toward them, Makolli said.
"People's awareness of the issue and their education is the key," he said.
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